Surrender your suffering.
"Suffering means being cut off from God. Therefore, those who live in communion with Him cannot really suffer." --Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
Oof. These words floored me as I read them this morning during my devotional time (I'm reading The Cost of Discipleship and WOW). After spending four months in a third world country and returning to one of the wealthiest nations in the world (I mean, at least we act like it), it just doesn't seem like this statement could possibly be true.
I interacted with university students who didn't feel safe in their homes. Their belongings were being stolen regularly, yet they couldn't afford to move to someplace better. I put shoes on the feet of eight year olds who walked upwards of 15 miles round trip to school each day, who were walking barefoot until some people decided to make a change. I listened, helplessly, as refugees shared their testimonies of torture, loss, and grief.
On the flip side, coming back to the States has me overwhelmed by how unhappy everyone seems to be. Over Christmas, people were rushing around, stressed about the perfect gift for their loved ones. And then after Christmas, there were just as many people who were disappointed that a material item didn't satisfy their needs. Just yesterday I walked into Urban Outfitters, where 80 percent of the books for sale had to do with anxiety.
Don't all of these things qualify as suffering?
Whether it's losing your job, living in a broken apartment, not having shoes or clothing, reliving past moments of trauma, battling cancer or even simply having a bad day where nothing seems to be going right, life is just hard. These are real struggles, and while they might look very different in a first world than a third world country, I don't ever want to discount the hardships that people go through on a daily basis.
And yet, most of the people I interact with on a daily basis--both in the States and Uganda--would consider themselves Christians. They have the hope of the gospel rooted deeply in their hearts, ever clinging to God's promises, knowing for a fact that they are royalty destined for a rich inheritance in the kingdom of heaven. No matter how difficult the circumstances, believers have the ability to rest in the truth:
"My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart, my portion forever." --Psalm 73:26, emphasis added
We can call it struggle or difficulty or unfortunate circumstances or anything, really, but we cannot call it suffering. True, authentic suffering is to go through these exact same issues, but without God. Whatever happens, God will never turn His back. He is always present, always responsive, and, like a best friend, will sit in the thick of things with us until it is time for Him to bring better days. And even in the better days, He is always present, always responsive.
I don't know what your struggle is today. Maybe it's the flu, or the loss of a loved one, or a major financial crisis, or a million other possibilities. Maybe you're torn between two different worlds, and are overwhelmed by the weighty load of such different struggles. But, if you have never taken on the yoke of Jesus in exchange for your own, won't you take the time today to switch the two and let Him hold your burdens? He doesn't want you to suffer. He doesn't want to feel alone. He wants to take your hands in His own and be your light in the darkness.
Because the truth of it is this: there is no suffering or pain that will ever amount to the separation between you and God. You might not feel it in this moment, but there is a strain on your life, and the Mediator wants to fix it -- His name is Jesus. Won't you let Him bridge that gap? And, if you have already accepted Christ into your heart, won't you allow Him to dwell even deeper? He longs to take you away, all to Himself, and restore the brokenness that is there, if you will only let Him.
"Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." --Matthew 11:28-30